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Ex-mayor of Zephyrhills James Bailey dies at 74

Former mayor and city council member James Bailey died early Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 74.

Mr. Bailey served on the City Council for a total of 20 years. His first stint ran from 1974 until 1992. He served as mayor from 1992 to 2000.

In Zephyrhills, the mayor doesn't vote. But Mr. Bailey still had influence.

"Even when he didn't have a vote they listed to his opinion because he was respected by the council," said City Manager Steve Spina.

When his mayoral stint ended, Mr. Bailey was re-elected to the council from 2000 to 2002, continuing to have his voice heard on local issues.

In his honor, all city flags including police, fire and airport flags will be flown at half-staff until his funeral Friday at 10 a.m. at First United Methodist of Zephyrhills.

"He was kind of the face of Zephyrhills in the '70s, '80s and early '90s," Spina said, adding that people in other areas would often ask about him. "Even though we had our disagreements, that never really changed my opinion about him."

As a council member he was known to be fiscally conservative, yet progressive in his approach to city growth. He helped the Zephyrhills water bottling company in its relocation to the airport in the late 1980s and contributed to its growth since then.

"It became controversial," Spina said. "But that had huge economic benefits over the years to the community."

Mr. Bailey supported the YMCA, the railroad depot historic restoration project, and the airport's expansion and growth.

"He was always careful with the pocketbook, but was progressive in where we went as a community," Spina said.

Current Mayor Cliff McDuffie belonged to the same church as Bailey. "Jim was fairly forthright with speaking up and speaking his mind," McDuffie said.

They also knew each other from the Scratch Club, a group that has met daily at Barb's Restaurant for more than 40 years. Though he'd been quiet the past couple years while he was sick, "I think the community will miss him," McDuffie said.

Mr. Bailey was a retired district manager for Florida Power Corp., now called Progress Energy Florida, and worked for more than 20 years in the Zephyrhills area.

Survivors include his wife, Patricia, their three adult children, Diane, David and Karen, and several grandchildren.

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